Outline for Presentation on Siddartha to MVHS English classes:
A. Symbolic Meaning
a. Bottom curve stands for your conscious, waking state
b. Top curve represents deep sleep or unconscious
c. Middle curve symbolizes dreaming state where the consciousness can turn inwards to Self
d. Dot=turiya= ultimate aim of all spiritual activity.
e. The semi-circle separating the top curve and the dot is maya or illusion; notice maya separates us from attaining our state of bliss
B. Conceptual Meaning
a. Om Chanting and Meditation, Amit Ray states: "Om is not just a sound or vibration. It is not just a symbol. It is the entire cosmos, whatever we can see, touch, hear and feel. Moreover, it is all that is within our perception and all that is beyond our perception. It is the core of our very existence. If you think of Om only as a sound, a technique or a symbol of the Divine, you will miss it
b. Om is the most powerful of all Indian mantras and begins and ends all other mantras.
a. AUM: encompasses entire range of sounds the human voice can make and all sounds in Universe. Consider the silence at the end
D. Importance as symbol in book
a. Very 1st page- "already he knew how to say Om"
b. "om is the bow, the arrow is the soul, brahman is the arrow's goal at which one aims
c. "He already knew how to speak the Om silently, the word of words, to speak it
silently into himself while inhaling, to speak it silently out of himself while exhaling, with all the concentration of his soul, the forehead surrounded by the glow of the clear-thinking spirit. He already knew to feel Atman in the depths of his being, indestructible, one with the universe." p3
d. The importance of Om in this story returns as the sound of the river; important-
river is all knowing without using words (one of the key reasons Siddhartha left Buddha's
following; didn't want to follow someone's words)... Om is one syllable encompassing all words
e. The sound of the River is Om p108
f. OM- again at end symbolizing Siddharta's enlightenment
2. Seeking of Self
A. Atman vs Gods
a. Siddhartha questions on p6 why offer sacrifices to God's when the true God is
Atman (self)- this leads to his quest to discover his true self..not sure how, though. He thinks in
peeling off layers (material goods, desires) he can reach self
1. "I wanted to rid myself of the self, to conquer it, but I could not conquer it, I
could only deceive it..." [compare to your layers/labels... student, daughter, son, sibling,
friend, musician, artist, jock, etc]
B. Siddharta's "path" to Self
a. I consider life to be like a path and we are all at different places on our paths. Our path has trails that venture off; some are meant to be followed enabling us to learn new things while
others are not meant to be followed. The ones that you are not meant to follow, like making poor choices, will definitely be learning lessons but at what cost?
b. p7 "One must find the source within one's own self" everything else
is a detour, a mistake (is that true?)
C. Buddhist philosophy: all is temporary
a. Siddhartha travels the path of self denial thru meditation and other ways but his path
always leads back to his Self
b. If you feel enlightened is it only temporary? Can you separate from inner Self?
c. "The body was certainly not the self, nor the play of senses, nor thought, nor understanding, nor acquired wisdom..." p47
d. "Remember my dear Govinda, the world of appearances is transitory. The style of our clothes and hair is extremely transitory. Our hair and our bodies are themselves transitory." p93
D. Goal to path: Govinda vs Siddharta and external teachers vs internal and God vs Self
A. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
a. says we create our own suffering by reliving in our minds the sad or painful experience
b. (has left riches behind) "He had drawn nausea and death to himself from all sides like a sponge."--He wishes to die at this point- brought on by the Self p87
B. Monkey mind- Buddhism= all the thousands of restless thoughts that flood our mind
a. "restless thoughts came flowing to him from the river, from the twinkling stars at night, from the sun's melting rays. Dreams and a restlessness of the soul came to him..." p5
Don't we all experience this to some degree?
C. Gotama vs Siddhartha= p33
a. Gotama says not trying to make people believe his opinions as opinions can be taken in a variety of ways; not trying to offer knowledge either...only teaches salvation from suffering
b. irony: Buddha (Gotama leaves home to end suffering; Siddhartha leaves home to find Self but ends up, at times, creating his own suffering
D. Om resurfaces in book
a. p89 "Then from a remote part of his soul, from the past of his tired life, he heard a sound. It was one word, one syllable, which w/o thinking, he spoke indistinctly, the ancient beginning and ending of all Brahman prayers, the holy om, which had the meaning of the perfect one or perfection"--Just hearing the word re-awakened his soul
A. Upaguru- someone or something that teaches a lesson
B. p97 "I had to experience despair." How can he know happiness or bliss if he doesn't know its opposite, despair?
C. Lotus/crown chakra= ultimate enlightenment
a. p101 "the river looked at him w/one thousand eyes" The crown chakra is represented by a lotus with 1000 petals an d represents ultimate spiritual connection; isn't the river what brings Siddhartha back to his spiritual connection? (Om)
D. Staying present
a. p102 "he saw that the water continually flowed and flowed, yet it was always there; it was always the same, yet every moment it was new" passage of time vs staying present
5. Chapter titles...no coincidences to the chapter names
1.Brahman= Atman= true Self
2. samana= inward energy (in book they are seekers)
3. Gotama (guawtama)= Buddha= one who is all knowing
4. awakening (enlightenment)
5. Kamala--upaguru. Her name means lotus; Kamala is also another name for 2 deities, Lakshmi and Durga (abundance and destruction) material vs nothing
6. Amongst the People (Kamaswami)= master of desire= obstacle for Siddhartha to enlightenment?
7. Samsara- cycle of life, birth to death
8. By the River
9. The Ferryman
10. The Son
(chapters 8-12 are all upagurus)
6. Maya/Being present
A. Maya means illusion
a. Siddhartha gets sucked back in to material world when he meets Kamala. Begins to really lose touch with what aspect of the self he felt he had started to know...until he is finally so
disgusted with his life he leaves and wants to die
b. Not being present...p75 "The years passed by. Enveloped by comfortable circumstances, Siddhartha hardly noticed their passing." We are all blindly carrying thro life w/o being present;
1. Noticing environment/descriptive words: Siddhartha notices blue sky remarking how it is amazing it has always been there: "All this had always been and he had never seen it; he was never present. Now he was present and he belonged to it."
2. p13-14 talks about businessmen trading, princes hunting, priests deciding today, mothers with kids..." They were all illusions of sense...Life was pain" [do we fake our happiness? is it all a cover up for fear, envy, anger, pain, etc...or is it the other way around?!]
B. Siddhartha comes around to: p130 (Brahman) "These people were worthy of love and admiration in their blind loyalty, in their blind strength and tenacity. With the exception
of one small thing, one tiny little thing, they lacked nothing that the sage and thinker had, and that was the consciousness of the unity of life." (that everything and everyone is connected, united, like Om)
Let me start by saying, I am way behind in this show so I only just watched the first episode yesterday! I am a fan of Master Chef and, of course, Gordon Ramsey, and was anxious to see the Master Chef Jr version. Besides being blown away by what these 8-13 year olds can cook, one major difference between the "adult" version and the kid version was immediately apparent to me. On Master Chef, the adults can be rude to each other, make faces, glare, lift eyebrows, back stab, etc. On the kid's show, there was none of that. In fact, there were high-fives, kind words to winners and it was SO much more enjoyable to watch.
If you caught the most recent season of Master Chef, you know exactly who Chrissy and Natasha are. Their constant glares and snide comments to each other made them both appear very unattractive, even in a physical way. I like to watch Master Chef, as well as Survivor, and it is the people who are just nasty in their words and demeanor that I immediately want voted off. Who needs to hear that all the time?
Do we grow out of kindness? Is jealousy an approved trait these days? Are these learned habits? Does the kindness and genuine happiness for others that the kids display reflect on who we truly are before we age and suddenly feel that not being nice is okay?
Patanjali breaks down the premise of yoga into 8 branches. One of the branches is called Yamas. Yamas are how we are supposed to act towards other. The branch of yamas then breaks down into 5 main ideas. Today, we will be dealing with the two that most directly apply to the Master Chef scenario as depicted above: ahimsa and satya.
I use the word ahimsa (ah-heem-sah) often in my classes; it means non-harming. When used in regards to one's practice, the word begs you to listen to your body so that you can keep yourself safe. Only you knows when the stretch is too much or the pose too challenging for that day. But, ahimsa also refers to not harming others. When we toss out mean comments or glares we are not practicing yoga. That is so anti-ahimsa!!! We need to strive to present kindness in each moment: to encourage, rather than bring down.
Mahatma Ghandi stated: "Ahimsa does not simply mean non-killing. Himsa means causing pain to or killing any life out of anger or for a selfish purpose or with the intention of injuring it. Refraining from so doing is ahimsa. Ahimsa means not to injure any creature by thought, word or deed. True ahimsa should mean a complete freedom from ill- will and anger and hate and an overflowing love for all. Ahimsa is the attribute of the soul and therefore to be practiced by everybody in all the
affairs of life."
Satya (saht-yah) means truth. Are you speaking truthfully? Now, let's assume that you have something not very nice to say to someone and you are speaking the truth...should you say it? Satya and ahimsa do not work in conflict with each other. This type of truth should not be uttered if it isn't ahimsa, as well.
Srinavatsa Ramaswami: "One should speak what is true and what is helpful to others,
One should not speak the truth if it would harm others (ahimsa in speech). Pleasant speech if it is untrue, also should be eschewed. This is considered eternal/universal dharma."
Upanishad: " Truth alone triumphs, never untruth"
Check out this kindness video... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PT-HBl2TVtI
Do you remember seeing the picture known as Rubin's vase?
Some people initially see a vase and others see two faces looking at each other. Once beyond your first
impression, your eyes start to seek out where the second picture lays. Again, some people can see it right away once told what to look for and others struggle to see beyond the
first image. Eventually, I am guessing, the majority of people do see both image.
But, as time goes by and we are not frequently exposed to this picture, we soon forget what it was we were supposed to see. We may stumble across the picture years later and see the vase or faces and think, wait- wasn't I supposed to see something else? What was it?
Now, stay with me! I am not jumping themes; I am about to tie in two other elements and take you on a whirlwind ride full circle!
In our yoga practice, we are reminded to stay in the present moment. What is the body feeling right now? What does the breath feel like right now? Where is your mind right now? The reason your yoga teacher keeps reminding you of these things is because we are not used to staying in the
present; simply put, we forget. We use blame and guilt to suffer in the past and we use worry to hover in the future. What reminds you to stay in the moment? The right now?
For the past few weeks, I have been handing out homework in the form of manifestation experiments from the best-selling book E squared. (If you haven't tried them or don't know what I
am referring to, scroll down through the class themes looking for Experiment 1, 2 and 3). Because,
here is experiment #4.
Every experiment, thus far, requires you to stay present in your mind for a simple 48 hours. If you do not, you will, more than likely, miss your sign or your answer. Think about the Rubin's vase picture. Let's say you originally saw the vase and that was it. That is a correct answer but, unbeknownst to you, it is only half of the answer. The other half is actually right in front of you. Hear me again, the full answer is right in front of you but you do not see it. The same is true for the answers you feel you need in your life...should I quit my job, should I go on vacation, etc. Your answers are inside of you, founded in your intuition. But, like, the analogy above, we forget to look because we have forgotten what we are looking for. When you remind yourself to stay connected with the present moment, you can see, feel or hear the answers more clearly. Just ask!
So, experiment #4 is this:
Think of a problem or struggle or question that troubles you, that you need an answer to. It could be job related; it could be more like should I get a new pet? You are going to ask the Universe for the answer in the form of a yes/no question. Now, here, you may be thinking why am I asking the Universe when you just said all the answers are within me? Fair question. The word yoga means unite. You are united with everyone and everything, linked by a greater energy. You contain the Universe and it contains you. If you feel better directing your question to yourself, or God, or Krishna, or prana, or light, or...it doesn't matter because it is all of one and the same.
When you pose the question, ask for a specific, not-for-debate type of answer. Make sure you really want the answer to your question before you ask because your intuition is not ever going to lie to you. Also, be prepared for an answer that arrives in a way you did not expect. In the book,
Pam Grout says she asked if she should move forward with freelancing and she was soon fired. Not the answer she expected but, none the less, the right answer for her.
As always, I love to hear about your experiences. If you feel comfortable sharing, come back to my website after your 48 hour experiment, and post your results. I would also remind you of one other thing... I believe if you ask a question that the Universe feels has an answer you are not ready for, that answer may be delayed. Keep paying attention beyond the 48 hours for your sign!
Tuesday's rain and snow combination made it seem so heavy outside- maybe word is oppressive.
You could literally see the heaviness. We have this fabulous Halloween spider hanging in the entrance to my doorway. His soft legs are about 6 feet long so they hang down daring someone to move through. When the weather was sunny and slightly warmer, his legs would swing freely in the breeze. I would catch the shadows from his legs out of the corner of my eye and constantly glance out the window to see if someone was there, forgetting I allowed the spider to linger there. Now his legs hang heavy with little movement as though depressed. I get that; this October weather can be depressing!
The leaves that have fallen from the trees cannot freely move in flight; their bodies heavy from rain, heavy from the gloomy snow. Even my road, which was recently repaved a few days ago, echoes this gloom. The water doesn't drain off the new tar or soak its way in; it just sits there dumbfounded, not sure where to go or stalled by the oppressive atmosphere?
The question is are you going to allow yourselves this same destiny? Do you choose to be influenced by the darkness or inspired by the light?
In this class, we elevated our energies by bringing in lightness: through visualization, energy and breath.
Ancient Vedic Seers describe light as the essence of the Universe.
"Agni is Light and the Light is Agni. Indra is Light and the Light is Indra. Surya is Light and the Light is Surya.” (Upanishads) Remember, Agni is the God of fire, Indra is the God of rain and lightning and Surya , that of the sun.
Quotes from Sri Chinmoy used in class:
“ Light and darkness. Darkness makes us feel that we are nothing and can do nothing, that we are useless. Light makes us feel that we are everything, that we can do everything, that we can become everything. ”
“When we live in darkness, our human life is a constant want. When we live in Light, our divine life
is a constant achievement. Light in the physical is beauty. Light in the vital is capacity. Light in
the mind is glory. Light in the heart is victory.”
When you are feeling down or the weather is getting the best of you, sit still for a moment with your eyes closed. Imagine a healing white light surrounds you in a hug. As you inhale, visualize breathing the white light in. As you exhale, see the light expand to fill your entire being:)
If you are new to the experiments I have been posting, they are directly from Pam Grout's best-seller E squared. Note that this experiment is #4 in the book; I am taking liberties to jump around as needed!
Pam Grout writes, "What can you manifest? Pretty much anything you've ever seen, heard or experienced. The world is basically your own mail order catalog."
Today's experiment is manifesting that which you want in your life. Like the other experiments, this one will require 48 hours of your awareness and really nothing more. Write down the day and time you start and declare your intention. It is my intention to... what? Receive an unexpected gift, go to a concert, whatever! I can't tell you what I decided to manifest until my 48 hours is up but I will report back! You can set your intention for a vacation or new job but I would prefer you start small until you get the hang of not letting doubt creep in. Be convinced you will receive what you asked for. Be specific. Remember, if you ask for a vacation, the Universe might respond with you being let go from your job so your time is freed up! Be specific.
Pam Grout makes the analogy of intention being like a tennis ball. When you throw the ball up, you know it is going to come down. Exactly where, you cannot be certain: in a tree, on the roof, out of sight...but you know it came down. "Intention is just like that tennis ball. It comes back just the way you send it out."
State your intention positively and with certainty that you will receive that which you wish to attract into your life.
For a brief moment today, I managed to listen to Hay House radio where a host was asking his caller, "What are you broadcasting?" Unfortunately, that's all I heard because the voices of my kids drowned out the rest! But, I began to think about this question. The question can be re-phrased as, "What are you putting out there?" Think back over the last 24 hours. Did you broadcast love, happiness, anger, sadness, jealousy...? I began to see an image in my mind of a fluffy white dandelion and how the seeds take to the wind and spread everywhere. So does what you send
One white dandelion has approximately 200 seeds attached to the flower head, which is also called a clock. Ironic that you can take back time just about as easily as you can take back your words, your actions, your thoughts (ahem...you can't!)
I came across a blog on www.blisshabits.com called How to Wish on a Dandelion posted by Kathy in December of 2011. [I hope she doesn't mind my use of her words!] My first reaction was I can't believe someone sat down to write out the five steps "needed" to blow the seeds off a dandelion. But, as I continued, I realized it was more than that. It's a blog about intention and higher power and, actually, yoga. And, now, I am a believer that each of these steps is necessary.
Kathy wrote for Step 1:
"1.First look for the fluffiest dandelion you can find. The seeds should be about to fall off but it is best when none have already done so. If you are lucky enough to happen upon a patch of them you
will easily tell which of the stems is crying for your breath. Pick that one and don’t make the magic wait any longer."
Do you not LOVE the line about choosing the stem that is "crying for your breath"?! When I ask clients to choose healing stones in a Reiki session, I always tell them not to choose their favorite color or favorite stone, but rather, to choose the one calling to them because that is the one they
"2.Pick the dandelion carefully. You don’t want to send any seeds on their way prematurely. If the wind is blowing you may need to block the breeze with your body as you prepare your seeds for
In other words, consider your thoughts, words and actions before you send them out. Yoga asks us to be in the present moment. The true test is can you stop in that present moment to take a
pause and a breath before acting or reacting.
"3.Once you have your stem, it is time to think about your wish. Important rule, never tell anyone for what you are wishing.* If you are making a wish primarily for yourself it is always a good
idea to tack one on for a friend. It always helps a wish to travel with a friend."
As we begin our yoga practice each and every time we step upon our mats, we set our intention for our practice. Is your intention always supposed to be about you? Uhm, no. You could intend for positive energy to be sent to someone else for whatever reason. In class, we set our intention and then, purposefully, added one on for someone else.
"4.Continue thinking about your wish as you take a deep breath. Hold the fluffy head of your dandelion near your mouth and turn carefully in the direction of the breeze. This insures a good flight for your wish and keeps all the seeds from landing on your clothing or in your hair.
For the magic to be at its best you must blow all the seeds off with one breath. If you do not accomplish this, some superstitions raise questions about the stability of your love life, however I usually just find another and try again."
The last part of this line is so great as it relates to your yoga practice. If a yoga pose isn't working for you, try another or come back to the first and try again. But DO NOT let frustration and self-judgment work their way into your practice. Do not allow the ego-mind to try and take you there. When it does, re-focus on your breath and float back into the present.
"5.Take a few minutes and watch as your wish floats out of sight. Don’t rush this part. Part of the magic is knowing that your intentions are being sent far and wide. Watching until the last seed
is out of sight helps the wish come true."
This step is all about letting something bigger take over. You send your wish out there and let it go.
Check out my theme on the surrender box; you write down a worry or stressor and give it up to the Universe to take care of. Let it all go; the magic, the miracles, are all around you.
The following are two dandelion folklore and fact quotes for your enjoyment:
“Are you separated from the object of your love? Carefully pluck one of the feathery heads; charge each of the little feathers composing it with a tender thought; turn towards the spot where the
loved one dwells; blow, and the seed-ball will convey your message faithfully. Do you wish to know if that dear one is thinking of you? blow again; and if there be left upon the stalk a single aigrette, it is a proof you are not forgotten. Similarly, the dandelion is consulted as to whether the lover lives
east, west, north, or south, and whether he is coming or not.” The Child and Childhood in Folk-Thought by Alexander F. Chamberlain
“The dandelion is an excellent barometer, one of the commonest and most reliable. It is when the blooms have seeded and are in the fluffy, feathery condition that its weather prophet facilities come
to the fore. In fine weather the ball extends to the full, but when rain approaches, it shuts like an umbrella. If the weather is inclined to be showery it keeps shut all the time, only opening when the danger from the wet is past.” Camping For Boys by H.W. Gibson
Today's theme was about surrender. Not in a giving up type of way or relinquishing control type of way, but in a peaceful let's see what can happen type of way.
In A Place for Worries and Fears by Madisyn Taylor, she talks about this idea of a surrender box. So, in class, we visualized writing down one of our worries or stressors [write this in a positive way...for ex, do not write I am worried about my health. Instead, write I am thankful for my good health] and placing the piece of paper in a beautiful box. In this way, you "surrender" your worries to the Universe, or higher power, and are now free to turn your attention to what you may have missed!
Madisyn Taylor writes, "We may believe that we are somehow taking care of our desires and concerns by keeping them at the forefront of our minds. In maintaining our mental hold on every detail, however, we may actually delay the realization of our dreams and the resolution of our worries because we won’t let them go. At times such as these, we may want to use a surrender box."
Give it a try! Consciously let go, give yourself permission to let go, of whatever you write down and tuck away into that box. Maybe weeks later, go back into your box and those messages you wrote that are no longer relevant, discard and say thanks.
I shared the following two poems in class. Where does the surrender come in?
People Like Us
by Robert Bly
There are more like us. All over the world
There are confused people, who can't remember
The name of their dog when they wake up, and
Who love God but can't remember where
He was when they went to sleep. It's
All right. The world cleanses itself this way.
A wrong number occurs to you in the middle
Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time
To save the house. And the second-story man
Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives,
And he's lonely , and they talk, and the thief
Goes back to college. Even in graduate school,
You can wander into the wrong classroom,
And hear great poems lovingly spoken
By the wrong professor. And you find your soul
And greatness has a defender, and even in death
"The Guest House"
by Jelaluddin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks
This being human is a guest house.
a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought,
the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
If you didn't try experiment #1, scroll down through class themes on my website (inspiredbyearth.com) to give it a try! Check out the results people have posted...fascinating!
These experiments come directly from Pam Grout's book E squared.
This is a 48 hour experiment asking you to be very aware of what you see. It is based on the premise that what you want to see is either already there and you are missing it or that you can manifest in your life that which you wish to see.
When you decide your 48 hours will start, write down the date and tie and say "Now". Set your intention that, in the first 24 hours you will see [color here] cars. I set my intention that I would see purple cars. Then, thinking that may be unfair to the Universe (!), I changed it to allow for purple or orange cars. Within an hour of setting this intention, I saw 3 orange cars driving past me in the opposite direction. Not together, but separate. And all the same hue of orange. You pick your own color. But then LOOK for them. Remember, the premise here is that we don't see most of what is in front of us. If I hadn't been looking for orange cars, I am sure they still would have passed me on the road but I wouldn't have noticed them. How many blessings and opportunities are before us that we don't see because we aren't looking for them?
When the second 24 hours starts, set your intention that you will see ________ [fill in the blank]. I chose feathers. They don't have to be real feathers, mind you. They can be pictures on anything. Be alert! My daughter painted my nails last night and then designed each nail with artwork. I gave her the artistic freedom to draw whatever she wanted. On each of my thumbs, she painted a blue feather.
Give it a try and be very aware to your surroundings. Look at everything! And, then, report back under "Comments"!
Upaguru. If you are reading this word for the first time, it may seem like it should be a
character from Willie Wonka right next to the Oomphaloomphas! But get used to it; allow the word to roll off your tongue a few times, because it's a good one!
So, yogi Pat M. shared with me an article by Joyce Rupp about her Upaguru. Since I am using it
as my theme, that makes Pat my Upuguru!!!
Let's start with the word Guru. Those more familiar with the Americanized use for this word may see a Guru as a supreme expert or someone who is enlightened, untouchable. Broken down, though, the word actually means going from darkness into the light. So , a Guru is someone who
leads you from dark (unknowing) and helps you into the light (knowledge).
The word Upaguru means the teacher nearby. Since everyone and anyone that crosses our path does so for a reason, they all should be looked upon as an Upaguru with something to teach you.
Some of our Upagurus flit through our life for but a moment; literally, minutes. Others seem to stick around until we have caught on to the lesson and maybe then they move on.
Elizabeth Goodman writes, "Sometimes we meet a stranger just for a moment, but the stranger in that moment exhibits such grace, that the stranger is one of our teachers for life. It is by being open and spacious that we get the opportunity to recognize those who have just one perfect teaching for us. When we are closed off, we can miss both teachers and teachings."
Lessons don't necessarily come in pretty boxes with shiny paper and trailing bows. Some people we
have to deal with don't either! They are Upuguru's as well. How are you going to deal with them?
If Upuguru means the teacher nearby, does it have to refer to a person? Christopher Page writes, "The upaguru means that whatever is happening in my life at the moment, can be my teacher if I am able to open to the lessons my circumstances have to offer. "
This is a lesson in contemplating everything! What about the objects near you? I found a website that pictured a fan, a reminder to be cool. It showed an arched roof on a house, a lesson to aim high. A mirror teaching us to reflect before taking action. The clock to remind you that every
moment is precious. Think about that! What if, tomorrow, every clock or watch your eyes settle on brings to thought every moment is precious? How will that change your actions, your words, your day? I feed a chipmunk outside my front door every day. He is a definitely a lesson in patience and being still.
From the article Pat gave me by Joyce Rupp:
"It took awhile before my Upaguru revealed itself. Surprisingly, this teacher had been there all along, almost directly in front of me, but my senses had to become alert before I could receive its message. There it was: a healthy, young birch tree. Midway down its trunk dangled a completely dead branch, still tightly affixed to the tree. Even though death was firmly fastened to the young birch, at least a dozen healthy, green-leafed branches stretched outward from other parts of its trunk.
"The longer I sat and gazed at the birch tree, the clearer the teaching became. “Live with the brokenness and keep on thriving. Let the deadness of the past or the present remain if it must, but turn toward what longs to be enlivened. Choose to focus on what matters. Do not allow your own
or another’s apathy, resentment, disappointment, hostility or any other negativity to consume the nutrients in you that feed love. Be a conduit of loving energy just as the trunk of this birch tree is a conduit of life for those green-leafed branches.”
" ...If I could summarize the teaching I received that day, it would be this: “Focusing totally on the dead branch results in a narrowing of vision and a tight, empty heart. Releasing that focus and opening up to the possibility of growth does not deny the dangling branch. It simply lets it be
and nurtures what can still produce life. For the human heart, wounded yet resilient, much remains. Always it can be touched by divine grace.”
I had a request to do a yoga theme on balance, so here it is! Let me first tell you that when someone is new to yoga or afraid to take that first class, their usual reasoning is "they aren't flexible enough" and/or "they aren't able to balance." I am telling you, these are some of the best reasons to start your yoga practice! When someone says they aren't flexible enough, don't you wonder about the word "enough"? I know there are yoga instructors out there who are way more flexible
than I am but that has never caused me to question my own flexibility. And let me share a 'secret' with you...when I get up in the morning, I can barely touch my toes if at all! Each day, it seems my body needs to relearn where it was the day before and that is okay. Your poses and your stretches are always going to be perfect for you (assuming correct alignment!!) if you are listening to your body's capabilities and considering them to be unique on any given day.
As for balance... I am going out on a limb (tree pose!) to guess that the first thing people think of when the words yoga and balance are used in the same sentence are the more challenging balance poses one sees in magazines. But I think those images need to swiped away. Balance is not just a
physical element to the poses. Balance has to do with your mind equally as much. AND, it has to do with your focus, both mentally and physically as to what the gaze is resting on.
In Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 2.46, it reads in Sanskrit: sthira sukham asanam. Sthira means steady, sukham means happiness and asanam refers to the poses. All poses have a balance to them and a point of grounding; which part or parts of your body is in contact with the Earth? While each pose has to have a sense of strength or steadiness manifesting somewhere, this sutra reminds us
that, despite the steadiness, we also need pleasure. So I often ask, what is the challenging aspect to the pose? And what is the easy part? Where do you feel heavy and where do you feel light?
If you only allow your mind to focus on the hard parts, are you practicing yoga with sukham?
One common interpretation o f this Sutra is that the poses (asana) should be steady and comfortable. When the legs grow weary in Trikonasana (triangle pose), for example, can you shift your focus to your top hand, which are energetically outstretched and light and free?
George Feuerstein stated, "A pure state of joy is felt in the cells and the mind. The body, mind and soul are one. This is the manifestation of dharana [concentration]and dhyana [meditation] in the practice of an asana."
As an instructor, one of my biggest concerns in balance poses is, not that someone will fall over physically, but that, mentally, they allow their ego mind to start in with self-judgment and frustration. I always remind students that those two terms aren't allowed in the studio! If you are wobbly, put your foot down, or grab the wall, or grab onto a yogi friend who looks pretty
stable!!! (I'm kidding on that last one!) If your arms can't sustain an arm balance, can we at least prep the pose and play around with what goes where and how! And here's a tip you may find
helpful. I think it feels natural to bear down towards the Earth in balance poses (because it is safer there!) when it is so much easier and inspiring to elevate and lift.
Look, balance is so much more than just the physical holding of a pose. Balance requires as much mental equanimity as physical. Imagine you are near the end of a very beautiful and peaceful practice. You are calm and one with your breath. You shift your weight into the left foot to lift the right foot up against your inner left leg coming into tree pose. You root down, lengthen the body with the breath and are able to feel the nuances of the pose as maybe your weight shifts slightly on the left foot or you try something new with your hands.
Now, imagine you are stressed out, angry at life, impatient, needing to get on to the next thing on your to-do list and you try to come into tree pose. How can there be happiness and steadiness when the mind is darting around like a bee trapped in a balloon?! When your mind is
agitated, the body replicates.
Balance also requires focus. I like that the last sentence has double meaning. Yes, you need mental
concentration (dharana) but you also need focus with the eyes. A very soft focus dedicated to a gazing spot called drishti. Where can you maintain your gaze while blurring out or softening your visual perception?
Even the dictionary mentions two of these fundamental aspects. "even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady" and "stability of one's mind or feelings."
Zig Ziglar wrote, "I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can't truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles."
Symbolically, imagine the home life Ziglar refers to as your mind. Now, let's rewrite his quote as far as your yoga practice is concerned. 'I believe that being successful on the mat means having a balance of success stories in various poses. You can't truly be considered successful in your yoga
poses if your mind is in shambles.' Hmmm...
I can't believe I'm going to quote Donald Trump, but here goes:
"If you're interested in 'balancing' work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable."